Photo: Connor McCourtney
Drake is rolling through the Missouri Valley Conference season, sitting tied atop the league standings 16-3 and holding a 30-17 overall record.
After a three-game sweep of Indiana State to open the MVC season, Drake owned a five-game winning streak with its two wins carrying over from Northern Illinois and St. Mary’s College. It was just the start of the team’s success.
The Bulldogs added three more wins against Bradley and South Dakota State, giving them an eight-game winning streak, the longest of the season. Drake dropped the second game of a doubleheader with South Dakota State to end the streak, but the team won its next five.
With the only hiccup coming from two losses against Iowa State, the Bulldogs have resumed storming through the MVC schedule. The team’s lone loss in the league came at the hands of Wichita State.
“In my eyes, we are right on track of where we planned on being this season,” senior Jenna DeLong said. “This year, we didn’t set out any definitive goals that we had to achieve. Instead we decided we were going to approach every single day as a new day to learn and get better at the sport we love.”
DeLong has been one of the reasons Drake has been successful. The senior ace is 18-4 on the season and undefeated in the Valley.
Junior Torey Craddock has also been one of the Bulldogs’ most potent offensive threats.
“We are feeling really good about how we have been playing so far in conference play,” Craddock said. “We have really come together to play good softball.”
Between DeLong in the circle and Craddock at the plate, Drake has a one-two punch that has helped the team climb to the top of the conference. Drake leads the conference in total pitching. DeLong broke the all-time Drake strikeout record on April 17 in a 3-2 win over Northern Iowa at Buel Field, breaking Laurie Bowden’s 18-year-old record of 670 strikeouts.
DeLong doesn’t only contribute in the circle. She is tied with senior Erin Mollohan with a team-high 10 home runs.
“Jenna is a great influence on the team,” freshman Amy Pierce said. “She motivates us to give everything we have into every game we play.”
On the other side of the ball, Craddock is third in the Valley with 50 hits, tied for second with 12 doubles and is first in total bases with 89.
“Torey is a hard worker with a positive attitude,” Pierce said. “She really encourages the rest of the team to have that kind of attitude also.”
After losing in the first round of the MVC tournament last year, Drake has different plans this time around. With only five Valley games left in the season, Drake eyes a top seed entering the State Farm MVC Tournament.
“We want to be a one or two seed for the MVC tournament and, ultimately, win the tournament,” Pierce said.
The veteran Craddock takes a more humble approach.
“Our goals for the rest of the season are to take it one game at a time,” she said. “We want to continue to improve and get better with each game.”